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Tag Archives: Mammon

A Sign That Your Money, or Anything Else, is an Idol

We know that idols still exist today, but spotting them in western culture is trickier than it was 3,000 years ago when they sat on altars in the center of a family home.

An idol is anything that we look to for the security and significance that we should only find in God. And if this is the case, well, then, the sky’s the limit on what can actually be an idol. My job can be an idol, my spouse, my car, my children, etc.

And yet it’s the idol of money that Jesus speaks to so clearly in Matthew 6:24…

No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. (ESV)

Of course money can be an idol, because it is so very easy to find self-worth (significance) and security in a large bank account.

But how do you really tell if your money is an idol to you, or if anything else you have falls into that category? Tim Keller’s book Counterfeit Gods has been a help to me in discernment, but reading in Proverbs the other day, I found another sign: Idols make you “calculate inwardly” and keep you from focusing on what really matters.

In Proverbs 23, our writer has just finished warning us not to “toil to acquire wealth”, to be “discerning enough to desist”, for money disappears easily, or as he says, it “suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven.”

And then he says this…

Do not eat the bread of a man who is stingy;
do not desire his delicacies,
for he is like one who is inwardly calculating.
“Eat and drink!” he says to you,
but his heart is not with you.
You will vomit up the morsels that you have eaten,
and waste your pleasant words. Proverbs 23:6-8 (ESV)

When something is an idol, you must constantly inwardly calculate whether you will lose it; in other words, you can never rest your mind. This is why, when you are eating dinner with a “stingy” person, someone who serves and worships money as an idol, you can never really have a true conversation with him – he is always “inwardly calculating”, thinking about his money and what he can do to keep it from “sprouting wings.”

As the writer puts it, “his heart is not with you.” In contemporary idiom, “his mind is somewhere else.” Therefore, you “waste your pleasant words.” Idolaters make lousy conversationalists.

And such is what idols do to us again and again. Whether it is money or a girlfriend or a job, if the particular object has become an idol, we lose ourselves in it and are always “inwardly calculating” what we can do to keep it from going away. Idols keep our minds from rest.

In fact, many people, understanding salvation incorrectly, relate to the true God incorrectly as a idol. They believe that they are saved by works and not by grace through faith, and therefore they are always inwardly calculating: “Have I done enough? Does God love me yet? What can I yet do to prove my sincerity? Have I earned my way into God’s acceptance?”

But in a relationship with Jesus Christ, when God becomes my Father and will never “sprout wings” and abandon me, I need never calculate again. As a result I find myself loving Him in return, and the only “calculation” I do is relaxed and joyful, centering around this question: “How can I take everything I have, my money, my relationships, my work, etc., and use it all in passionate service of this good and gracious God who has freed my heart and soul?”

He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit. Titus 3:5 (ESV)

 

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Why Greed is Different Than Every Other Sin

“No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” Luke 16:13 (ESV)

Greed is a fascinating sin, and different than almost any other temptation or transgression. Here’s why, as Tim Keller points out in his book Counterfeit Gods, most people don’t know when they are being greedy. In contrast, every man who is committing adultery knows exactly what he is doing. Now, of course, he may be carried away in the heat of the moment, but…he still knows. Keller explains this phenomenon…

“Some years ago I was doing a seven-part series of talks on the Seven Deadly Sins at a men’s breakfast. My wife, Kathy, told me, “I’ll bet that the week you deal with greed you will have your lowest attendance.” She was right. People packed it out for “Lust” and “Wrath” and even for “Pride.” But nobody thinks they are greedy. As a pastor I’ve had people come to me to confess that they struggle with almost every kind of sin. Almost. I cannot recall anyone ever coming to me and saying, ‘I spend too much money on myself. I think my greedy lust for money is harming my family, my soul, and people around me.’ Greed hides itself from the victim. The money god’s modus operandi includes blindness to your own heart.”

Tim Keller, Counterfeit Gods, Chapter 3: Money Changes Everything

Keller explains at least one aspect of this problem – most of us settle into a particular economic class, and when we look around our little town or situation in life, there are almost always people who are richer and more lavish in their habits than us. We compare ourselves to them and reason that we are doing great in the greed department. After all, we don’t have as much as the Joneses. But the rest of the world knows differently.

How do we solve this problem of greed? Keller again…

“Jesus gave up all his treasure in heaven, in order to make you his treasure—for you are a treasured people (1 Peter 2:9-10). When you see him dying to make you his treasure, that will make him yours. Money will cease to be the currency of your significance and security, and you will want to bless others with what you have. To the degree that you grasp the gospel, money will have no dominion over you. Think on his costly grace until it changes you into a generous people.”

 

For tomorrow, Thursday, July 24th: Luke 17

 
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Posted by on July 22, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Why is Money the Great Competitor for our Hearts?

You’ve got to hand it to Demetrius – when the silversmith in Ephesus wanted to get some people with him to oppose Paul and his message, he knew just what to say:

“Men, you know from this business we have our wealth.” Acts 19:25 (ESV)

Oh, Demetrius would go on to say that the goddess Artemis was great and should not be deposed from her throne and blah, blah, blah. But he had them when he brought up their wallets. If this Jesus would continue to be preached, their lucrative business of making silver shrines was going to go up in smoke, and thus, before you know it a riot had broken out.

And it all started with concern for cash.

It’s an instructive scene when it is compared to the story right before it – new believers had come together bringing their books of magic arts and burning them up before everyone. And someone, watching this happen, made a fast calculation: “We are burning up books worth a total of 50,000 silver pieces!” Incredible.

There is an important lesson to all this – one of the indistinguishable marks of a Christ-follower is that he or she thinks of money differently and handles it differently than non-believers. Jesus told us it would be this way…

No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. Matthew 6:24 (ESV)

Why is it that I cannot serve two masters? Because when it comes down to it, I will always look to my “Master” for two things: security, and significance. And if I find these things in money, I won’t look for them in Christ.

The man who finds security in money will prize a big bank account, forsaking God and His Kingdom to get it. The woman who finds significance in possessions will want the latest clothes and the nicest car and the finest house so that others will know just “who” she is. What about the church and kingdom causes? Eh, he or she would say, “Let’s not be legalistic.”

And the end result is that Christ is forsaken.

But when we see that we have all the significance we need in Him – after all, He has loved us so much that He sent His Son to die in our place – then money loses its hold. And when we realize that we have complete security in Him – in this life and in eternity – then we will want to serve Him, not money, with all our hearts.

So, how do you win this battle to serve God, not money? The first and most important way is to become a Christian.  The view of everything in your life will change when you are in Christ.  His love and His promises will transform where you look for significance and security. “Book burning” follows naturally. But after this, remember that true Christians are still tempted to find significance and security in money.  At least I am.  And one of the time-honored, Scripture-tested ways of continuing to serve God not money is by intentionally serving Him with your money…by being generous toward others and toward His Kingdom.

 

On Monday, March 9: Acts 20

 
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Posted by on March 6, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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